Open Networking Lab Accessibility – The Challenge

In the UK, there are over 2 million people with sight loss, with 360,000 registered as blind or partially sighted. Approximately 25% of those with partial sight loss are employed, but this decreases to 10% for those who are blind. There is therefore a pressing need to enable blind and visually impaired people to gain better access to the job market. Evidence has shown that people who are visually impaired can seek employment if the professional tools they use have appropriate accessibility. These adaptations help visually impaired individuals to access the same vocational learning and employability opportunities as the general population.

Computer networking is a promising area for employment for visually impaired people because command line software (using text only) is widely used professionally for computer networking and is already accessible through assistive technology such as screen readers. The Open Networking Lab Accessibility project will allow visually impaired to acquire basic computer networking skills through the use of accessible network simulation software. In order to achieve this, we will build upon and extend the PT Anywhere network simulation tool to offer an accessible interface for conducting network simulations. We will collaborate with blind and visually impaired users, members of the broader disability community, and accessibility specialists to identify user requirements and test the new developments.

This project is carried out by the Open University Faculty of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) and is funded by the Ufi VocTech Trust.